A Great Comeback Gives Kings 8-8 Tie With Gretzky Gang

Times Staff Writer

Coming from hockey’s foremost beach town, the Kings know something about having sand kicked in their faces by National Hockey League bullies.

Behold the transformation Saturday night as the 98-pound weaklings turned Charles Atlas and sprayed a good portion of beach into the smug faces of the Edmonton Oilers.

The turnaround was more like a crash course, the Kings rallying from an 8-4 deficit with 10 minutes left in regulation to tie Edmonton, 8-8, on a goal by Bernie Nicholls with 34 seconds remaining, then playing a scoreless five-minute overtime period before a crowd of 16,927 in Northlands Coliseum.


After playing two periods of giveaway hockey, trying to match slick Edmonton move for move, the Kings suddenly rose up and mashed the Oilers right in their smiling faces.

The Kings (14-17-3) were smiling at the one point they gained from the tie, while the Oilers (22-11-2) had their smiles fade.

“I think they tried to embarrass us,” the Kings’ Marcel Dionne said, not masking his distaste. “They put (Mark) Messier (a center) on defense, they put (Mike) Krushelnyski (a left wing) on defense. They were laughing at us. They tried to embarrass us. They were pouring it on. Class teams don’t do that.”

The Oilers, who had won six games in a row, have much to be proud of, and don’t they know it. Teams in the league love to beat the lordly Oilers, just as Edmonton regularly trounces others. Against the Kings this season, it has been one high-scoring offensive show after another. After all, the Oilers and the Kings are the No. 1 and No.2 goal-scoring teams in the league.

The two opponents have produced 45 goals in their four clashes in the Smythe Division, where shootouts are a way of life, albeit a way of life that King Coach Pat Quinn had hoped his team had worked out of its system.

But there it was Saturday night, signature King-Oiler hockey for two periods--11 goals in 40 minutes, with the Oilers leading, 7-4.

The scoring continued, with the Kings’ Dave Taylor finishing with four assists, with Dionne and Nicholls each getting two goals and with Dave Williams, Luc Robitaille, Jimmy Carson and Morris Lukowich each getting one.

Oiler star Wayne Gretzky had two goals and three assists, and the Great Gretzky even played for four straight minutes without a break at the end of the game. Gretzky teammates Stu Kulak, Glenn Anderson, Krushelnyski, Dave Hunter, Jari Kurri and Randy Gregg each added a goal.

“I was as displeased as I could possibly be with our team effort early tonight,” Quinn said. “I thought we were looking for freebies. We’ve been grinding away for two years not to have a performance like that. There was a lot of individual hockey. I don’t know what happened in the third period--we must have smelled it.”

Actually, it was a sensory experience other than smell that really spurred the Kings in their four-goal third period. A blistering check from defenseman Jay Wells on Oiler winger Kulak was the hit heard round the King bench. That act was the signal to Edmonton that the Kings had taken enough.

Nicholls had already scored for the Kings in the period, making it 8-5, Edmonton. There was a lull, then Wells’ check. Seconds later, at 14:56, Lukowich converted a pass from Taylor to score the second of the Kings’ four straight goals in the period.

They came in a deluge for the Kings. Eighty-four seconds after Lukowich’s goal, Dionne got his second of the game to draw the Kings to within one at 8-7.

“After I got my second goal, I knew we were in it,” Dionne said. “We pulled our goalie and we were confident.”

There had been no precedent to justify Dionne’s confidence in that situation. The Kings had pulled their goaltender for the extra attacker 11 previous times this season without scoring a goal.

Worse, the play has usually backfired, as opponents had been piling up empty-net goals against the Kings.

So, when Darren Eliot skated off the ice with 1:09 left in regulation, the statistics were not in the Kings’ favor.

A spirited, cohesive King unit bucked the odds. Dionne won the draw in the Oiler zone, and he subsequently took a hard shot that Edmonton goaltender Grant Fuhr stopped. The rebound bounced around the crease, and Nicholls backhanded it in at 19:26 amid a pile of players in the goalmouth., “It wasn’t pretty, but we got the point,” Nicholls said.

Yes, and the Kings proved one, too.

King Notes

Peter Dineen appeared in his first NHL game, playing on defense and point on the King power play. Dineen also got his first NHL penalty--roughing at 12:14 in the second period. . . . Two-time Norris Trophy winner Paul Coffey remains on the Oiler injured list with muscle spasms in his lower back. He has missed 10 games. . . . Wayne Gretzky extended his scoring streak to 19 games, the longest in the NHL. . . . No fewer than four Kings are out with knee injuries. Defenseman Craig Redmond underwent arthroscopic surgery to his right knee a month ago, and three players are out with sprained knees--defenseman Larry Playfair and wingers Bryan Erickson and Paul Guay.